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Some believe Friday is doomsday on the Mayan calendar; the Mayans don't

By Ben Brumfield and Nick Parker, CNN
updated 10:01 AM EST, Fri December 21, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Some believe a major calamity will occur Friday based on the Mayan calendar
  • The Mayans don't think that's true: "It's an era," a Mayan wood carver says
  • The end of the winter solstice marks the end of a 394-year period on the calendar
  • Predictions mention a deity but not the end of the world, an archeologist says

Merida, Mexico (CNN) -- There may be no one left on Earth to say TGIF this week.

Some believe the world is coming to an end Friday -- on 12/21/12 -- which is when an important phase on the ancient calendar of the Mayan people terminates.

Mayans don't buy it.

At least the ones living in the city of Merida, Mexico, don't. Neither does anyone in the Mayan village of Yaxuna. They know the calendar their ancestors left them is about to absolve a key phase -- the end of an era and the heralding of a new one -- but they don't think we're all gonna die.

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"It's an era. We are lucky to see how it ends," said wood carver Santos Esteban in Yaxuna, a sleepy village of fewer than 700 Mayans, located in a territory that once belonged to the ancient kingdom founded around 2000 B.C.

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He feels it is a momentous occasion and is looking forward to the start of the new age. He is not afraid.

"Lots of people say it's the end of the world, but we don't believe that," he said.

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People in his village will keep living much as they have, preferring hand-built, palm-thatch huts to concrete buildings and baking tortillas on an open flame.

For those less optimistic than the Mayans, an "official" website in the United States has collected links to all the doomsday articles and videos Internet users can consume.

December212012.com also offers tips on survival and advertisements for the needed gear -- from gas masks to first aid kits and hand-crank radios. Comments are welcome on its Facebook page, which has more than 14,000 likes, and website owner "John" from near Louisville, Kentucky, sends out tweets under the handle @December212012.

On the doomsday Facebook page -- in between gloomy superstitious links and user comments -- John has confessed that he does not really believe the world will end on Friday but thinks that a new era could dawn that may include some improvements for the world. That new era, however, might require a good bit of destruction as well.

John asked posters not to take the whole thing too seriously.

"PLEASE PEOPLE. . . I'm begging you. Do not overreact or make any rash decisions regarding Dec 21st. Anyone who knows anything about the 2012 prophecies, including myself, does not believes that the world is going to end," the Facebook page says.

Opinion: The Maya collapsed - could we?

Gunmaker Ryan Croft in Asheville, North Carolina, does take the prediction seriously. He is building a special assault rifle to deal with any signs of doom lurking around the corner.

He doesn't think life on Earth will come to a complete end Friday. "I'm not planning for the world to go away," Croft told CNN affiliate WHNS.

However, he thinks the day could mark the beginning of cataclysmic times introduced by a disaster. That may call for drastic measures, Croft said.

His new rifle, a hybrid of an AR-15 and an AK-47, is designed to be easy to use, the Gulf War veteran said. Trouble in the United States could ensue in the wake of an economic catastrophe, he thinks.

"I taught about economic collapse and how it actually looks on the ground," he said. "People want to act like it can't happen or doesn't happen, and it happens around the world. There are places on fire right now."

In true survivalist manner, Croft also teaches his family how to subsist on alternative sources of nourishment, such as algae, roasted mice and live earthworms.

CNN iReport: Mayan expert offers advice

Though 12/21/12 is a somewhat congruent date on the western calendar, the Mayan version enumerates the event in a different way.

The ancient people measured time in cycles called "baktuns" of 394 years each, and the winter solstice coming Friday marks the end of the 13th baktun. Some who study the calendar say the date for the end of the period is not Friday, but Sunday.

The Mayan calendar is based on the position of the heavenly bodies -- the sun, the moon and the stars -- and was meant to tell the Mayan people about agricultural and economic trends, said archeologist Alfredo Barrera.

NASA is also weighing in on the matter, with a post on its website declaring that the world will not end on Friday.

"It will be another winter solstice," NASA said. "The claims behind the end of the world quickly unravel when pinned down to the 2012 timeline."

As of Thursday afternoon in the eastern United States -- already Friday across Asia -- the space agency said it had detected "nothing unusual" and that it anticipated a normal couple of days ahead.

Read more: Hotels ready for the end of the world

The hubbub about a calamity occurring comes from a Mayan stone carving called monument 6, made in 700 A.D., which predicts a major event at the end of this baktun, Barrera said. But half of the broken tablet is missing, so one may only speculate on what the complete message may be.

Whatever it is, it's not about the end of the world, he said.

"We don't have a prophecy or inscription related to the finish of the world. It just mentioned a deity."

Barrera said he believes the hullabaloo about the end of the world has been whipped up by online speculation -- and he finds it a bit ignorant.

In Merida, Mayan priest Valerio Canche conducts an ancient ritual to honor the dead in light of the upcoming end of the 13th baktun.

"It is considered the closure of the great cycle of Mayan time," he said. "But, of course, the cycle (14th baktun) begins the following day. For the Mayans, it's not the end of the world."

If you're reading this on Thursday, keep in mind that it's already Friday in New Zealand, and it's still on the map. If it's Friday, a look out the window may be reassuring.

If it's Saturday, and no major calamity has occurred, then relax and go celebrate the beginning of the 14th baktun with the Mayans.

Debunking doomsday: 6 rumors dispelled

CNN's Ben Brumfield reported from Atlanta, and Nick Parker from Mexico

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